The Bluest Eye
‘When I think of autumn, I think of someone with hands who did not want me to die.’ Tenderness is in short supply in nine-year-old Claudia’s life, but as she lies ill in bed with her mother taking care of her, she is in no doubt that she is loved. For her friend Pecola, life is even harder; she’s teased about her black hair and skin, and her parents are cruel. The Bluest Eye is in many ways a brutal book about rape, racism, incest and hardship but it’s shot through with moments of friendship, tenderness and joy, whether it’s Claudia’s bossy older sister Frieda defending their friend from the neighbourhood boys, Pecola’s friendship with the local whore or the sweet memory of an old man splitting the heart of a watermelon with a hungry young boy, The Bluest Eye is about how we can grow up brutalised and damaged and how we can pass that damage on; it’s an angry book that I shouldn’t have read when I was twelve because it cracked my world open like that watermelon, but maybe that’s what I needed to happen. Even in all the horror and hardship, the poetry of the book is always there, singing away in the background- a peach, an old man playing the fiddle just for you in his kitchen, the way a woman lovingly pronounces the name of the town she grew up in, like a kiss. Long after the nightmare at the heart of the book is over, this beauty stays.